Impalement hazards on construction sites

March 18, 2014

Eric M. Dean
General Secretary
International Association of
Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers
Suite 400
1750 New York Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20006

Dear Mr. Dean:

Thank you for your March 12, 2013, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). You asked for clarification regarding impalement hazards on construction worksites. Specifically, whether OSHA recognizes objects other than reinforcing steel as impalement hazards and, if so, what standards are applicable?

Yes. OSHA recognizes that there are objects other than reinforcing steel that can present potential impalement hazards. OSHA has two construction standards which apply to impalement hazards.
29 CFR 1926.701(b) applies to reinforcing steel. It states:
All protruding reinforcing steel, onto and into which employees could fall, shall be guarded to eliminate the hazard of impalement.
29 CFR 1926.25(a) applies to protruding nails. It states:
During the course of construction, alteration, or repairs, form and scrap lumber with protruding nails, and all other debris, shall be kept cleared from work areas, passageways, and stairs, in and around buildings or other structures.
In addition, with respect to impalement hazards not covered by these standards, the General Duty Clause (section 5(a)(1)) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to furnish a workplace which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Therefore, employers are required to protect employees exposed to the hazard of impalement by sharp objects. For example, where steel stakes and metal conduit pose a recognized impalement hazard and there are feasible means of protection, the employer is required to implement protective measures that eliminate or materially reduce the hazard.

OSHA answered similar questions in a letter to Mr. Paul Resler, dated August 3, 1999. We have attached a copy of the letter. You can also find the letter on OSHA's website at: http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_id=23267&p_table=INTERPRETATIONS

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA's requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our letters of interpretation do not create new or additional requirements but rather explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. From time to time, letters are affected when the Agency updates a standard, a legal decision impacts a standard, or changes in technology affect the interpretation. To ensure that you are using the correct information and guidance, please consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact the Directorate of Construction at (202) 693-2020.

Sincerely,

James G. Maddux, Director
Directorate of Construction

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